Climate Change Threatens Winter Olympics


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SOCHI, RUSSIA – FEBRUARY 19: Mist rises behind the Olympic Rings during day 12 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Laura Cross-country Ski & Biathlon Center on February 19, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Emily Dozier, Staff Writer

The 2018 Winter Olympic Games are already underway in Pyeongchang, South Korea, with the US securing seven medals, four of them being gold. While most fans are worried about who will receive the next one, others are concerned about the warming temperatures and the future of the Winter Olympics.  

Daniel Scott, a professor and University Research Chair at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, has been studying the relationship between sports, recreation, and the environment for the past few decades. The study became evident when the 2010 Vancouver Olympics recorded the warmest temperatures ever at the Winter Games. January temperatures averaged 44.8 degrees Fahrenheit that year- about seven degrees above the average. Temperatures for winter host cities are typically below freezing in February. An updated version of that study shows that if global greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced, only eight of the twenty-one cities that have hosted the Winter Olympics will be able to host them again by the end of the century. Places like Beijing, Salt Lake City, and Pyeongchang look reliable if high emissions still continue, while Squaw Valley, Oslo, Vancouver, and Sochi will drop off the list by mid-century.

Not only do warming climates affect the cities, it determines how athletes train. Skiers and snowboarders have to travel farther in order to find enough snow and ice to practice, leading to snow farming and the use of man-made snow. Jessie Diggins, a cross country skier for the United States, says skiing on man-made snow is faster, making the courses more dangerous because they become icy. Many athletes have been injured due to these faster speeds. Groups such as Protect Our Winters work to raise awareness about the impact global warming has on winter sports. POW has advocated for carbon pricing policies around the country and they have even brought professional athletes to meet with lawmakers in DC. Without a decline in greenhouse gas emissions, the effects of global warming will only increase, not only endangering the Winter Olympics, but colder climates and environments around the world.